Create a Schedule That Incorporates Fun Into Your Aging Parent’s Week
We all get busy and it can be hard to squeeze in fun activities when you work, have a family and are a caregiver for an aging parent. Unfortunately, social isolation can lead to depression in the elderly. While making sure your parent has fun doesn’t feel like it should be high on your priority list, it is important.
When I was a kid, every Saturday, my mom would pack up me and my two younger brothers and pick up my grandmother to take her to lunch. As my grandmother got older, we adjusted our trips to incorporate restaurants that had wheelchair access. We never missed a Saturday visit and while I always looked forward to the visits, at the time, I didn’t understand how important it was to my grandmother.
Life has changed a bit since I was a kid. There are more distractions, we work longer hours and life just seems to get in the way. So how can you prevent social isolation without becoming the primary source of entertainment?
Activities You Can Do With Aging Parents
One thing that my mom and her siblings did to ensure my grandmother always had company was set up a schedule for visits. My family had Saturdays, one aunt had Sundays and my uncle had Wednesday since he lived closest to her. Three times a week, she had her children and grandchildren visiting her and possibly taking her out.
Do you have local sibling who you can coordinate with so that no one adult child carries all of the responsibility? If you are already providing care, you are probably visiting your parent to check in or grocery shop or manage household duties. Can you carve out one afternoon where you just do something fun together so that it isn’t all work all the time?
Maybe your budget doesn’t allow for a weekly lunch date. How about a picnic at the park or a trip to the library? Maybe you grocery shop together instead of doing it for them. Most seniors love going to the store. It is great people watching and they feel more productive. I had a client who loved to go to the ocean. We pushed her wheelchair on the sidewalk and she sat for an hour just watching the waves crash.
If they are wheelchair bound and you can’t transport them in a wheelchair, consider researching transportation options near you that you can use with your parent. As part of the Americans with Disabilities Act, all public transportation must provide a transportation option for the elderly or disabled. If you Google wheelchair transportation option with your city, you should find an option for your family. The application process may take time, but once you’re set up, you can schedule a ride to take your parent shopping or to lunch.
If you or a sibling are long distance, you can still schedule a virtual lunch date with an aging parent. Set up a time when your family can gather in front of the iPad or computer and dine together virtually. I knew a family who did this nightly so their mom wouldn’t eat dinner alone.
Social Activities with Friends
If your parent has friends nearby, perhaps you can coordinate a regular get-together for them. As our parents age, they or their friends may have transportation challenges that limit their ability to get together. Can you schedule rides for them? Do you know someone who would be able to take them to each other? I knew a family that scheduled a bimonthly lunch date for their mom with her friends. They booked the transportation so that everyone could make it.
Unfortunately, one of the downsides of getting older is losing our friends due to age, illness or death. If your parent doesn’t have many local friends left, can you help connect them with new friends? Their library and senior center are great starting points, as well as a local YMCA or gym. If they are taking a class, they’ll have the added benefit of sharpening their mind and connecting with like-minded people.
While it may seem like a minor issue, loneliness can cause physical and mental problems in seniors. Helping your parent create a social calendar isn’t just a nice thing to do, it is important to their well-being.